Regardless of what type of medicine your child needs, first be sure to connect the dots: Explain that the medication will make your child feel better faster — and soon she’ll be well enough to do the things she loves. Be sympathetic to your kid’s concerns that it won’t taste good or is “icky,” but make sure she knows that taking medicine isn’t up for debate. (It’s okay to sweeten the deal with a treat after she takes it — a sticker, say, or a couple of M&M’s.) Then follow this advice:
For help with pills
Smother it with whipped cream. Turn pill-taking into a treat with this trick: Place the pill on your child’s tongue, then immediately cover it with a squirt of whipped cream. The sweet sensation distracts your child and helps him swallow the whole thing down.
Sneak them in. Most pills can be crushed into easy-to-swallow foods like applesauce and yogurt. (Just check with your doctor first to make sure that it’s okay to mix the medicine with these foods.) Of course, there’s also nothing wrong with simply hiding the pill inside one of your kid’s favorite dishes, like mashed potatoes or mac-and-cheese.
Do the chin tilt. For older children, try this simple capsule-swallowing technique: Have your kid pop the capsule in his mouth and take a sip of water. Before swallowing, have him tilt his head toward the floor. This automatically makes the capsule float to the top and back of the mouth, making swallowing a snap.
For fever reducers & prescriptions
Transform the texture. Some liquid medications have a thicker consistency or a weird color that causes kids to zip their lips. If your child complains about the way it looks, thin out the medication by mixing it in juice or water, or change the color by swirling it in a small amount of yogurt or a glass of milk.
Turn it into a game. Create a checklist of the days and times your child needs to take her medication, then let her put a sticker or star next to each dose she’s finished taking. This helps kids feel like they’re playing an active role in taking care of themselves. Plus, they’ll get a sense of accomplishment when the whole chart is covered with gold stars.
Serve it chilled. If your child’s doc okays it, keep liquid prescription medication in the fridge. The cool temps help minimize the intense taste. Another option to consider: Ask your pharmacist if it’s possible to add customized flavoring to a prescription — it often is!
Put safety first
Once you’ve transformed the medicine-taking experience into a pleasant (or at least less stressful) one, make sure your child understands that medications aren’t candy. Accidental overdoses are one reason that pharmacies no longer recommend cough-and-cold medicine for very young kids. Keep prescription meds (yours, too) in a locked cabinet, and be sure the childproof safety caps are on securely.